Like a genie appearing, rising up over the streets of Montreal, Leonard Cohen's portrait begins to take shape through the conduit of the masterful markings of muralist Kevin Ledo. I caught up with Kevin while in progress at the 5th edition Muralfestival to ask him a few questions on how he got his start and a little inside scoop into the process of the muralist.
Who are you? I am a muralist and fine artist based out of Montreal. I grew up in the west island. Which is the suburbs of Montreal.
Tell me about your training as a artist? I took illustration and design. I did about a year of commercial work and then I stopped doing art for awhile as it was not what I wanted to do. I decided to try others things. I went to traveling, lived in Asia where I taught english. Saved some money there and moved to Vancouver. That's when I decided I wanted to be a fine artist. In 2005, I set out to do fine art full time and in the last 4 years I have been doing murals.
What made you get into painting murals? I had a show in Vancouver that went horribly wrong. I flew out and shipped 16 larges works. It was a disaster. It was solo show I had worked hard on and for a long time. I just hit a wall, I decided i needed to quit for a bit. I started to get a lot of negative associations with art. At that point I moved down to Guatemala with my girlfriend. We just quit our lives and decided to get a change in perspective.
It's while i was in Central America that I had the idea to do some murals for exchange of accommodation and food. It didn’t really catch on at first in Guatemala, so then I tried in Nicaragua and then Costa Rica. It was while I was in C.R, that I had a friend who was out there and his friend had a restaurant, so I painted the shutter doors. They ended up really liking it, gaining food in exchange for it. At that point he was opening another restaurant , and they hired me to do a mural in that one. and his cousin had a bar and I did a mural there and his parents had a hotel, so I also did two there. So it caught on really fast and snowballed and kind of brought me back into art, as I was feeling negative towards it. It brought a whole new light to it. That’s how I got started into painting murals.
Is painting murals profitable or more passion driven? Some of them pay, some of them pay very little and others pay appropriately, its not really a business model and it’s kind of chaotic. I have to weight it out, whether it’s worth it. If they bring me somewhere that is very interesting, fly me out, give me hotel, materials and I get to spend some time there, then it's worth it.... but …..
IF THERE WAS NO PASSION THERE WOULD BE NOTHING....
because it’s really hard work and you don’t always get paid. I love it and this is what I want to do in my life, it’s been a long road.
What inspires you and what are you influences? I don’t have artists in particular, I think music is more of a influence, I’m really a big fan of music and if I wasn’t doing art, I would probably go into another creative field that wouldn’t pay, like music.
What style of music are you a fan of then? Everything , roots reggae and dub, sometimes, space rock, hip hop, dub metal, afro cuban latin music.
So what about Leonard Cohen? Are you a fan? Yes, I have been listening to him, but I have been going for something a little more upbeat. I did however explore some new albums while painting this mural that I hadn't listened to before.
So let's talk about this mural? Is was funded by who? Mural Federation CJA and boul ST Laurent., and It was their choice for me to paint this mural.
My latest creative project I am working on is called THE PROCESS. I was curious how an artist goes from an idea to the finish product. Can you share with us a little bit about yours?
We approached the owner of the building, he agreed, and then we got permission of the parking lot owner, and the photographer.(yoanvalat) Once all was accepted I started with a sketch. I got a high quality shot of the wall from the roof across the street, then on my computer I overlaid the drawing on the wall image so I knew where all the lines passed through. Then I printed it out, every individual rectangle that is created by the building structure and then I used all the reference points of the paint marks and the paint chips as to know where to put the lines. However in this case i was counting bricks a lot , just to know where a point is, and then connected the lines and so it was a 5 day process of just drawing. Sometimes I project, if it’s 3 story, or a grid, this is the third time i do this technique…and sometimes i free hand it if it’s small,
What is small to you? Like a story
So how's the mural going for you? It's been stressful and tiring and scary. Its 9 industrail stories and 13 regular so the biggest one Ive done.
Aside form this what other projects are you working on? I am actually working at night on another project. I also have a contract do a live painting this weekend. Later this month I'm off to Amsterdam to a street art museum of large scale works of about 150-200 artists. Then I'll be in Europe for 2 months and then the middle east for another project. The winter was fairly quiet but now I am pretty busy and it won't let up until mid August. Then I return to Montreal to do another project.
How do you feel about this ? Is this good or bad? It's really good, it’s just hard to manage time off, because you want to say yes to projects, but you force them to be back to back, and then their is travel time included. So I just have to be really careful not to burn out, because I've done that before. I have to take care of myself, as Im pushing my limits, with this mural and the time frame.
Can you tell me how you try to find balance? Just the basics, of sleeping and staying hydrated , and eating right.
If curious to see more of Kevin's work, please follow the link. The Leonard Cohen mural is featured on the south facade of the Cooper building. Seen best on the corner of Napoleon and St Dominique, in Montreal, Quebec.
Presently it's a work in progress, so check back for visual updates at a later date to see the finish product.
CONTACT- Website- Kevin Ledo- www.kevinledo.com